The Myth of the “Frightened Jew”
One of the popular myths that abound in missionary literature
describes the Jewish teachers quaking in “fear” when they encountered
the “proofs” to the alleged Messiah-ship of Jesus that are supposedly
found in the ancient texts of Jewish literature. According to the
missionaries, these Jewish teachers resorted to all types of nefarious
tactics in their “desperate” effort to “hide the truth” from their
naïve and trusting audiences.
Typical of this category of missionary mythology is the claim that the
rabbis altered the very text of the Bible in their effort to counter
the claims of the Church. The great commentator of Judaism, Rashi
(Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki of 11^th century France) is accused of
slanting his commentary on the Bible so that his Jewish readership
will not learn of the arguments that would support Christian claims.
And Maimonides is charged with formulating his teachings in a way that
would preclude the doctrines of Christianity.
Let us step back and analyze this accusation against the teachers of
Judaism. The Christian charge is that these rabbis saw these proofs to
the claims of the Church in the sacred texts of Judaism and they
distorted the intention of these texts in their teachings in order to
prevent their disciples from being persuaded by these so-called proofs.
This charge is demonstrably false. The only Christianity that existed
in the days of Rashi, Maimonides was a Christianity that believed in
replacement theology. For centuries upon centuries the various
Churches taught that the Jewish nation’s positive place in God’s plan
was replaced by the community of believers in Jesus and that the Law
of Moses was replaced by the teachings of Jesus. It is only in the
relatively recent past that some denominations of Christianity have
reconsidered one or both of these erroneous positions. But as far as
our teachers from the distant past (such as Rashi and Maimonides) were
concerned, the only Jesus that existed was one that came along with a
rejection of Israel as God’s nation and a repudiation of the Law of Moses.
The clarity that the Scriptures give us on these two subjects is
overwhelming and irrefutable. The following Scriptures speak of the
eternal election of Israel and of the centrality of that election to
Genesis 12:2,7; 13:14,15; 15:5,7,18; 17:7-14; 18:18; 22;17,18; 25:23;
26:3-5; 28:13,14; 35:12; 48:4,16,20; 49:10; 50:24; Exodus 2:24;
3:8,17; 4:22; 6:4,7,8; 15:16,17; 19:5,6; 24:8; 29:45,46; 31;12-17;
33:1,16; 34:10,27; Leviticus 11;45; 20:24,26; 22:33; 26:44,45; Numbers
15:41; 22:12; 23:21; 24:9; 33:53; 35:34; Deuteronomy 1:8;
4:7,20,31-39; 6:10,18; 7:6-8; 8:1; 9:5,26,29; 10:11,15; 11:31; 14:1,2;
21:8; 23:6; 26:15-19; 27:9; 29:11-14; 32:9-12; 33:28,29; Joshua 1:6;
5:6; 21:41; 1Samuel 12:22; 2Samuel 7:23,24; 1Kings 8:13,51-53; 9:3;
10:9; 11:36; Jeremiah 2:2,3; 10:16; 12:14; 14:9; 31:2,8,34-36;
32:37-41; 33:19-26; 46:27,28; 50:20,33,34; 51:5; Ezekiel 11:16; 16:60;
37:20-28; Isaiah 41:8-16; 43:1-21; 44:1-8,21-23; 45:4,14-17; 46:3,4;
49:14-16; 51:7,15,16,22-52:12; 54:10; 55:5; 59:21; 60:1-22; 61:6,9;
62:1-12; Hosea 2:1,21,22; Joel 4:17,20,21; Zephaniah 3:20; Haggai 2:5;
Zechariah 2:12; 8:20-23; Malachi 1:2; Psalms 28:9; 29:11; 33:12;
44:18; 47:4,5; 48:9,15; 50:7; 68:35,36; 74:2; 78:5,69; 79:13; 89:16;
94:14; 95:7; 98:1-3; 100:3; 105:8-45; 111:4-9; 114:2; 125:2;
132:13-18; 133:3; 135:4; 144:15; 147:19,20; 148:14; 149:2,4; Nehemiah
1:10; 9:7,8; 1Chronicles 15:2; 16:15-22; 17:21,22,24; 23:13,25;
2Chronicles 6:6; 7:16; 9:8; 20:7.
The following scriptural passages speak of the importance of the Law.
Some of these passages teach us that the Law is relevant for all
generations, into and including the Messianic age. Other passages
confirm that the Law is beautiful, holy, life-giving and central to
our relationship with God. Some of these passages refer to the
totality of the Law while others focus on a specific subset within the
larger framework of the Law.
Genesis 2:3; 17:7-13; Exodus 12:14,17,24,42; 13:10; 19:9; 27:21;
29:28,42; 30:8,10,21; 31:12-17; Leviticus 3:14; 6:11,15; 7:34,36;
10:9,15; 16:29,31,34; 17:7; 18:5; 23:14,21,31,41,43; 24:3,9; Numbers
15:15,21,23,38; 18:8,11,19; 19:10; 25:13; 35:29, Deuteronomy 4:2,6;
5:3; 6:18,24,25; 7:11-16; 8:1; 10:12,13; 11:1,9,13-25,27; 12:28;
13:1,18,19; 15:4,5; 16:20; 18:5; 25:15; 28:1-14; 29:8; 30:1-20; 31:21;
33:4,10;, Joshua 1:7,8; 23:6; Judges 5:31; 1kings 2:3; 8:23; Jeremiah
31:32; Ezekiel 36:27; 37:24; 44:23,24; Psalms 19:8-11; 111:7,8;
119:1-176; Malachi 3;22; Esther 9:28; Nehemiah 9:13,14.
Whoever wrote the Jewish Bible wanted to make these two points
abundantly clear; that Israel is forever God’s elect and that the Law
of Moses is eternally relevant. The Author emphasized these two
teachings, repeatedly and with force. He used every literary tool in
His arsenal to bring these lessons to our heart.
If we combine all of the arguments that the Church uses in its effort
to substantiate her claims on the basis of the Jewish Bible we will
find that they do not come close to the evidence that the same Bible
supplies to inform us that God’s choices of Israel and the Law of
Moses are irrevocable. Even according to the mistranslations and
misinterpretations of the Churchmen, the Jewish Bible doesn’t provide
anywhere near this level of support for the teachings of Christianity.
Even if a Jew would not see through the hollow arguments of the
missionary, the Jew could never come to the conclusion that the God of
the Bible encourages faith in Jesus.
As long as the Church was teaching replacement theology there was no
way that a missionary could persuade a Jew that the Bible supported
faith in Jesus. Rashi and Maimonides as well as every teacher who only
knew of a Jesus that rejected Israel and the Law of Moses never had a
personal need to refute Christian arguments. The Bible itself
repudiated Jesus in the strongest terms.
Yes, Rashi did respond to Christian arguments in his commentary to the
Bible, but this was not because he had any personal “fear” from the
arguments of Christianity. Rashi supplies his readers with responses
to Christian arguments because the Christian culture forced Jews to
respond to their specific “proof-texts,” be it in the setting of
formal debates or in the setting of private conversations between
Christians and Jews. But as far as Rashi’s personal faith in God was
concerned and as far as the Jews of his generation were concerned, the
arguments of the Church did not deserve any responses. Because the
only Jesus that existed in Rashi’s day was a Jesus that hated the
nation that God loved and rejected the eternal teachings of Moses.
The fact is that even now that many denominations of Christianity are
reconsidering their position on the election of Israel and on the
eternal relevance of the Law of Moses, the faith of a Jew is not
challenged by the missionary arguments. The overall message of the
Bible still repudiates the devotion and worship of Jesus that the
Church is promoting. This repudiation of faith in Jesus is spelled out
with such force and clarity that all of the missionary “proof-texts”
together do nothing to undermine the strength of this repudiation.
However, I do not know if I can expect a Christian to appreciate this
fact. Christians that are used to seeing the Jewish Bible as
supportive of their faith have a difficult time seeing the same Bible
from a Jewish perspective. But now that they have come around on the
issue of replacement theology I expect that they recognize the force
with which the Author of the Bible repudiates that error. And if they
recognize the power of the Bible’s support for the election of Israel
and for the Law of Moses I expect them to appreciate why Rashi and
Maimonides and all the Jews of their generation had nothing to “fear”
from the Christian arguments.